How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (1993) is a book written by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. The authors made an attempt to improve the reader’s experience and facilitate the process of interpreting the Bible. Fee and Stuart state in the introduction of their book that theologists and other professional interpreters of the Holy Scripture often complicate the words of Christ, so that many believers start thinking that they are not able to understand all the meanings the Bible has.
The book offers a variety of examples with several interpretations and explanations of the interpreting process. These examples help the authors to illustrate the main idea of the work that the Bible should not be understood precisely. The readers need to consider its ideas in a broader context. Such a critical approach to interpreting the Holy Scripture might be efficient in fighting with every day heresy and decrease the widespread critical attitude towards Christians.
The book is written in a simple, yet academic language, which makes it an understandable guide for unprofessionals and provides theologists and apologists with good information. The ideas expressed by the authors cannot be defined as belonging to a certain confession. They try to use mainly logical thinking method of interpreting the Bible, which makes it a useful source of information about the Holy Scripture for the faithful of all Christian confessions.
Summary and Analysis
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (1993) is divided into logical chapters that study the particular issue from the Bible. For example, it is possible to find the parts about the epistles, the Old Testament, the Gospels, the Psalms, the Prophets or the Revelation. It makes the process of using the book easy because it is possible to find a specific chapter concerning the Bible and it will not be connected with other parts of the book.
According to Fee and Stuart, it is crucial to keep in mind that the Bible has two main important aspects of its interpretation. It consists of historical particularity and eternal relevance, or combines, in other words, a component of communication between people and divine revelation. They state that it is necessary to understand the initial and the original meaning the Bible text had for the contemporaries of those events. After that, it is possible to talk about its significance for modern people with the help of hermeneutic methodology. The authors openly state that the main goal of the book is to teach people to interpret the Bible texts exegetically. It is difficult to argue with their goal because numerous examples of misunderstandings of the Biblical words, in reality, can be found. People often try to follow every minor rule and turn their lives into rituals without understanding the essence of religion. Such behavior might make the lives of those faithful difficult, as well as complicate their communication with other people.
Fee and Stuart focus greatly on translation. There are two main issues that are important in evaluating the Bible text: the linguistic and the textual ones. Linguistic features mainly include the theory of translation and textual issues that are connected with the original text. The authors give a variety of translations to illustrate the differences in interpretations caused by translations. For example, they mention the passage from 1 Corinthians 7:36:
NEB: “If a man has a partner in celibacy and feels that he is not behaving properly towards her . . .”
KJV: “If a man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin . . .”
NIV: “If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to . . .”
NASB: “If a man think that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter . . .”
The translations vividly show that the content depends greatly upon the chosen word for the virgin. There is obviously a big difference between behaving with a daughter and a wife. The previously mentioned example about the translation of the passage from the Corinthians logically supports the theory of textual criticism discussed in the book.
It is also necessary to note that the abbreviations before the variants of translation derive from the names of Bible translations. NASB and KJV belong to formal ones, while NLT and NIV are called functional equivalents, which mean that they aim at interpreting the idea from the Bible and do not try to translate it strictly word by word. For example, according to KJV translation, there is an idiom of “coals of fire” in Rom 12:20, which is not very widespread in the English language. The NIV variant of those “coals of fire” is “burning coals”, which is more appropriate, but still not that literal.
Though, Fee and Stuart emphasize that it is impossible to find an optimal way to translate the Bible texts because each of them has advantages and disadvantages. That is why they propose to use dynamic types of translation like NRSV and TNIV, and referencing as many variants of translation as possible. The authors have a thoroughly elaborated position concerning the translations of the Holy Scripture and express their ideas in a logical and explicit way. It is adequate and the evidence they give support the idea that it is essential to use a variety of translations to understand where the optimal variant is. The argument is clear and flows logically without any contradictions or inconsistencies.
In the third chapter, the authors try to teach readers to evaluate the Biblical discourse in textual units and to think contextually. Fee and Stuart use examples from 1 Corinthians to illustrate the method of contextual thinking. The previously mentioned passage about treating virgins also supports the idea of interpreting textual units. It is crucial to determine the historical context in order to understand the initial meaning of those words. According to the hermeneutics, people percept the text from the point of view of their culture. It is evident that the culture of modern people and one of the times of Jesus differ in many aspects. The authors claim that such a method of interpreting Biblical texts helps to resolve dubious skeptical issues in apologetics.
In the fourth chapter of the book, the problem of hermeneutics is discussed as a more vague branch of interpreting the Holy Scripture than exegesis. In my opinion, Fee and Stuart present a logically elaborated argument that explains the issue thoroughly. The way they start from the most general questions and then continue with explaining particular details makes the narration easy to understand even for the least professional reader.
Another important principle in interpreting Biblical texts is cultural relativity. Fee and Stuart emphasize that there is a general knowledge about morality and transcendent truth, and there are actuals of the first-century culture. The authors note that very often people try to adjust the words from the Bible direc